What Drives Her: Women Who Are Changing The Auto Industry From The Inside

What Drives Her Chicago Auto Show

Lunch  Is A Great Place to Start, Right?

What’s better than 100 women coming together to share insights and advice on how they built a career in the auto industry? An annual event focused on this. The Chicago Auto Show thought so, too, so on Wednesday, February 8th, the inaugural What Drives Her luncheon highlighted women who are changing the auto industry.

The luncheon kicked off the auto show. Sonari Glinton, NPR’s automotive correspondent, opened the program with his own experience of women in the auto industry: his mother worked her way up in the ranks at Ford’s Chicago assembly plant and faced and fought discrimination to force change both at the plant and in the industry. His tribute was fascinating and moving as he recounted his personal memories of her struggles.


The luncheon continued with a panel discussion of four women who have each impacted the industry in their own way. Bridget Brennan, founder of consulting firm The Female Factor, framed the discussion by illustrating the power of women as consumers and leaders while relating how her own bad car buying experience inspired her bestselling book Why She Buys.

Women’s role in the auto industry is most powerful as buyers. Kathy Gilbert, director of sales and business development for dealer solutions expert CDK Global, shared insights on how women as consumers are impacting sales; women shop differently for cars and want to hear the story of the car, not the specs that men are typically interested in. Women in the audience nodded enthusiastically.

Women Buy A Lot of Cars. We Should Sell Them, Too!

But getting more women into the sales end of the business is important, too. Candice Crane, vp of dealer solutions at the HR software company Hireology, is charged with helping dealerships hire more women. She shared her story of inspiration: she saw an opportunity to be a driving force in recruiting women in automotive sales and wrote a wite paper about it. Then, she took the leap to put it into motion, attending the Women in Automotive conference to drum up interest, and there she met the founder of Hireology who loved her ideas and hired her.

Learning to Climb the Ladder Means Standing Up For Yourself

Jody Hall brought her inspiring story of  building a career at General Motors and one of the most important lessons she learned: the need for women to stand up for themselves, even when it is uncomfortable. Shortly after joining the company she learned she’d qualified for a fellowship. But when  she discovered she didn’t get it due to a mistake in the application process, she went to the senior leader in her division at GM and voiced her feeling that it was unfair she’d been denied over someone else’s mistake. Sure enough, she was awarded the fellowship.

And Kelly Webb Roberts, a third generation auto dealer, president of several of the Webb family’s auto dealerships and a board member of the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, added fuel to the fire by sharing industry stats on the record sales growth of autos in the  Chicago area–sales driven by women.

Attendees of the luncheon left with full stomachs and full hearts and many commented on how inspiring the event was.  You can catch the full broadcast thanks to the Chicago Auto Show’s Facebook Live broadcast (below). And leave your comments in our comment section: How can YOU help to change the auto industry?

Here is the Chicago Auto Show’s Facebook Live broadcast of the lunch (Part 1):

The conversation Part 2:

And the rest of the discussion:

Maureen Fitzgerald, aka Wisconsin Mommy, is a Milwaukee based influencer and social media junkie. She loves sharing tips, tricks... More about Maureen Fitzgerald